Survey shows demand for net zero actions in ELMs

The survey of 400 farmers shows that more measures are needed to help the sector reach net zero
The survey of 400 farmers shows that more measures are needed to help the sector reach net zero

Most farmers want to see further measures to help them achieve net zero in future agri-environmental schemes, a new survey by NFU shows.

The survey of 400 farmers has revealed that while 84% are interested in the Environmental Land Management schemes (ELMs), they want more measures to help them reach net zero.

It highlights the importance of why fair reward and support for this work is essential for farm businesses who are focused on delivering the industry's net zero by 2040 goal.

The 400 NFU member respondents outlined which potential actions would be most important for their businesses and climate action.

The vast majority (89%) said hedgerow management and restoration and 84% said maintaining permanent grassland and/or improving grassland management.

Meanwhile, most (81%) farmers pointed to nutrient management e.g. planning and precision application, while 80% said generating and using renewable energy on farm.

The survey results form a key part of the NFU-led net zero ELM test and trial which is currently underway to explore what can be achieved if net zero measures are included in ELM.

The results demonstrate the high level of interest amongst the industry for net zero actions, but also that every farm is at a different place on their net zero journey and so different measures will be needed to attract as many farmers as possible.

NFU vice president Tom Bradshaw said British farmers were 'really enthusiastic' about net zero opportunities.

"This survey clearly shows the scale of demand for these actions and the need for future support schemes to cater for it," he added.

“The ELM needs to deliver meaningful, widespread and long-term benefits to the environment and our climate.

"I believe this should include offering a variety of options such as maximising the carbon storage potential of our grasslands, encouraging better nutrient management and, vitally, building confidence in greenhouse gas footprinting so we can effectively benchmark progress.

"This is also an opportunity for ELMs to work in conjunction with the carbon market so farmers can really maximise their potential when it comes to net zero delivery."

Mr Bradshaw said the inclusion of such incentives would be a 'giant step forward' in securing the UK's position as world leaders of climate-friendly food.

“This is an opportunity we don’t want to miss, and as a nation striving towards net zero by 2050 and a global community fighting the climate crisis, we can’t afford to miss it.”

Richard Thomas is a livestock, arable and cider fruit farmer from Herefordshire who took part in the net zero ELM test and trial.

He is already undertaking net zero work, including planting trees to sequester carbon, changing grassland management to build root mass in soils and using organic manures to cut nitrogen fertiliser use.

“The way I see it, including net zero incentives within ELMs that are attractive to farmers and deliver meaningful climate mitigation results is a win-win," he added.

"I would love to see options available within ELMs for things like long term hedgerow management regimes and reduced cultivation, as these would enable me to build on the work I’m already doing."